Thank you, John Landis Mason

They are my storage heroes.

They come in many different sizes, with weight and volume listed on their sides – cups, ounces, and milliliters all marked with raised dashes that can be felt as well as seen. Beyond their original canning purpose, they are freezer, fridge, microwave, and oven proof. They don’t break easily. They are inexpensive to buy in bulk, and free to anyone who buys Classico pasta sauce. There are multiple lids that make it easy to use them for spill-proof drinking glasses, tea light candle holders, and flower vases. Right now, I have a dozen storing pasta and dried beans, still more keeping herbs and spice mixtures fresh. Several are in the fridge, filled with salad dressings and leftovers (cut onions and their aroma are both easily contained in one). Mason jars are our drinking glasses, too.

In addition, Mason jars remind me of some important things:

  1. Life is richer and more joyful when I am able to adapt to a variety of tasks and contexts.
  2. Value isn’t measured solely by a price tag.
  3. the inner life will reveal its beauty – no need for disguises or fancy coverings.
  4. None of us was put here for only one purpose.                                       [Thank you, John Landis Mason, for your inventiveness. You make my life and the life of the world so much better for the jars and lids you created.]

Window Washing

It took over an hour, getting the windows ready for cold weather. Out came the screens and the glass outer windows, top and bottom. The double-hung inside panes were squirted with a vinegar/water/soap spray – twice each. Pollen, dust, a few leaves and some spider webs were removed, leaving behind a much cleaner set of windows. It’s the same every year: I’m amazed at how much the accumulated dirt of the past few months was blocking my view. For an investment of time and a little scrubbing, I get a better view of the world outside my own home.

Window washing is a good metaphor for teaching in faith. Study and practice can help me scrub the dirt off the glass, allowing a better view of the world. It doesn’t create the world or dictate the view, but it can make it easier to see and share. That’s good enough for me.

Driving Home: Scotland Bridge Road

Yesterday, I drove past the house I called home forty-nine years ago. It’s a ranch, medium size, nestled in the trees. It sits at the middle of Scotland bridge road, halfway between where the river meets tidewaters and an old community church. Although you can’t see it from the road, there’s a lovely path through the woods, babbling brook included. Only a couple of miles from the Atlantic, you can smell the salty sea on most days.

It’s a typical Maine house, with nothing to distinguish it from dozens of others in York. When I turned onto Scotland Bridge road, I wasn’t even sure I’d recognize it. There are a few more houses on the road, and the ones I remember don’t all look the same. New paint colors and a few additions have added a layer of unfamiliarity to many of them. But it was still a home and a road in a town that I called mine.

Watching maple leaves drift groundward at the place I now call home, I see that my memories are that house on Scotland Bridge Road. They’ve changed over time and distance, with new layers added that weren’t really there when I was living among them. But the heart is the same: my soul recognizes the place I once called home.

 

 

God In Mine Eternity

Science Fiction and Fantasy novels sometimes portray immortality as a good in itself. Living beyond all generations, never growing old or suffering from the pains of an aging body – who wouldn’t want that? Who wouldn’t do just about anything to gain that?

But a few narratives include something else. Not exactly a religious or overtly prayerful approach that questions this, but the cost of such an infinite life. Perhaps it’s the method of gaining immortality – Voldemort by soul-splitting murder, Dorian Gray by soul-revealing portrait. Maybe it’s the consequence more than the method – Tuck Everlasting’s immortal family that “fell off the wheel of life” and landed in a never-ending loop of isolation, Olympic Gods losing empathy and the ability to value life, Bella Swan Cullen forever stuck in teenager mode.

If I’m to drop from life into eternity, it can’t be an eternity of my own making; such a thing would be existence, not life. If I’m to drop from life into eternity, it has to be falling into a much deeper, wiser love than I can attain or even imagine.

Mine eternity can only be something God offers, or it cannot contain the love and grace that even this short life of mine has given. May I only seek to enter God’s eternity. It can’t be truly mine unless it, just as my life, is God-given.

In My Ever-Living Soul

[Christ Church Parish, Plymouth, Massachusetts]

It blends in with the rest of the windows in the chapel – blue in tint, full of small symbols, rarely noticed by anyone but the people who sit below it during Sunday worship.

It’s breathtaking to me, this small bird. Surrounded by the virtues, the gospel writers’ symbols, and so many flowers, it’s a visually quiet pane. Peaceful.

Whoever crafted it, I owe you a debt. To see a bird perched on a branch is such a common thing – a glance out a window is likely to offer just this sight. I think that’s why you included this bird. To remind me that God is ever-present, a common element in my life.

But it’s when I remember that God is just as surely perched in my soul that I can trust that ever-living is an adjective that applies to it.

God In My Slumber

My grandmother got up early every day, getting the housework started well before the rest of us were out of bed. By the time I was getting ready for school, she was taking a break for her cup of tea. After that, she grabbed the dust mop and gave the floors their daily once-over. She filled the rest of her day taking care of the house and all the people who lived within its walls. At night, when it was time, she fell asleep, recharging her body, mind, and spirit for the next day’s work and play.

I asked her once how she managed to keep to such a good sleeping pattern, even when life brought worries that couldn’t be scrubbed away with soap and water. Just get up every day and do the best you can. Don’t worry about what you can’t fix. 

She didn’t put things in spiritual terms, and I never heard her wax philosophic over anything. It wasn’t that she didn’t have the capability – she just didn’t see the point. She didn’t talk about trust in God or letting things go in prayer. She just didn’t let daily cares become nightly anxiety dreams. She entrusted herself to something beyond herself, and had faith that the world would still be there in the morning.

If that isn’t the peace of God in slumber, what is?

Sufficient?

God in my sufficing,

God in my slumber,

God in my ever-living soul,

God in mine eternity.

[For full prayer and more information, click Prayers from the Hebrides above.]

It isn’t hard for me to call on God when I cannot face something alone. When my own abilities and knowledge aren’t enough, asking God and neighbors for help isn’t such a stretch. It’s when I am perfectly capable of completing the task without help (thank you very much) that I’m apt to overlook God’s love and how I am always connected to God, God’s fragile creation, and all of God’s creatures.

It’s a terrible thing, forgetting that everything that is, was, and will be is God-created and God-related. Preserve me from the arrogance of assuming that I am somehow an exception.

God In My Heart

Vessel (definition 1, www. Merriam-webster.com)

             A.  A container (such as a cask, bottle, kettle, cup or bowl)                              for  holding something.

              B.  A person into whom some quality (such as grace) is                                     infused

The heart is a vessel, by either definition – a container, or the core of a person. Either way, the heart will contain something, be infused by something. If it isn’t God, it will be something else.

Please God, let it be you. Amen.

God In My Soul

I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart

down in my heart, down in my heart,

I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart,

down in my heart to stay.

Most everyone who grew up Baptist knows these words, and how to sing them. It’s one of several I learned at a very young age – catchy tunes, easy to remember words, and lots of clapping when sung in a group. Here are a few more:

Do Lord, oh do Lord, oh do remember me…

Jesus wants me for a sunbeam, to shine for him each day…

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine…

Such songs get the toes tapping and the body swaying. Most every child who sings them does so with gusto. It’s only when we gain a few  more years on the planet that these songs embarrass us as being overly simplistic; even worse, they represent a bait-and-switch – the unconditional love that they offered suddenly gone, replaced with a moral measuring stick and a fear that any little mistake might be cause for our names to be erased from God’s book of life.

I’ve gained enough years on the planet to realize that these songs, taken the right way, are simple expressions of an abiding trust in Jesus. The bait-and-switch wasn’t God’s move, just the misplaced actions of people who thought unconditional love couldn’t be real or sufficient. Instead, they got out the moral ruler, marked it with do’s and don’ts, then whacked people on the knuckles if they couldn’t measure up.

These days, when God in my soul arises in my prayers, it’s a request that God give me the strength, patience, and love to see in everyone a holy and beloved child. God in my soul – an absolute necessity if I am to refrain from grabbing my own moral yardstick.

God In My Lips

God in my life,     God in my lips,     God in my soul,     God in my heart.

[For the complete prayer, click Prayers from the Hebrides above.]

O Lord,  I need your presence not just in the words that slip so easily past my lips, but in my lips themselves. Unspoken things pass through my lips, for good or ill.

May my smile be genuine, and my compassion for your world always in my expressions.

Keep me from those subtle clicks and noises, the puffs of air that offer judgement and lack all courtesy. 

Keep me grateful for the gift of words and expression, and aware of the power they have to wound as well as heal. 

God in my lips. Please.